Whiteford, Peter: Income and wealth inequality

Whiteford, Peter

Income and wealth inequality: how is Australia faring?The Conversation, 5 March 2014

Australians like to think of themselves as egalitarian, and for much of our history we believed our income and wealth was spread around evenly. For many years, the world also shared that view. As early as the 1880s, visitors remarked on Australia’s relatively equal distribution of wealth, the lack of visible poverty, the country’s generally comfortable incomes and its relatively few millionaires.

As late as 1967, prime minister Harold Holt could say that he knew of no other free country where “what is produced by the community is more fairly and evenly distributed among the community” than it was in Australia.

From the 1980s onwards, however, this view of Australia came under scrutiny… The most recent figures for OECD countries, from around 2010, show that Australia is the 11th most unequal of the 34 OECD members.

The article looks at historical trends in income and wealth inequality. It received 253 comments. The article is one of a series on The Conversation on ‘class’ and it contains a link to these articles.

The article concludes:

So the pillars of egalitarianism in Australia were high wages, high home ownership and low unemployment. If we want to regain this position, we need to ensure that unemployment remains low and that low-income earners are able to buy into affordable housing.

The author wrote another article on poverty and a further article commenting on the 2014 budget from an inequality perspective.

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